The Bucket List
I get a lot of requests to chase certain fish but it’s not often that someone asks me for a true bucket list fish. A true bucket list fish isn’t going to be your everyday gig, and honestly I’m not sure it’s something I want to take on often. The pressure I put on myself to produce results every day would be multiplied by 1000. With all that said, my buddy Terry Thomas of Reef Light Tackle called me with such a request.
His good friend Cliff Porter had mentioned to Terry his bucket list fish was to catch a broadbill swordfish and Terry decided to pull me into the game.
We had a great time window to work with. We were looking for zero wind and for the current off Woods Wall to get right. After a week of watching the weather everything came together. I had an opening in my charter schedule and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate. I had been on several mahi charters around the wall and found the current was right. We nailed down the day we would go try and fill Cliff’s broadbill request.
We met at my boat at Cudjoe Gardens Marina, loaded up a couple hundred pounds of ice, my LP1200 electric reel, a bunch of different sized leads, harpoon and my fancy new swordfish sleeping bag. We even threw a few live baits in the well just in case we ran into some mahi.
The OO was loaded down. I gave Cliff and Terry a quick rundown where all my safety gear was located and we pulled off the dock a little before 8am. I set up a course on the GPS to head for the sword ground south of the wall.
As we ran south I had to keep from being distracted by birds working mahi all the way out and keep the goal in mind. I know the best way to catch a sword is bottom time with your bait. We arrived on my new “dilly” hole as my buddy would call it, and I pulled the smallest squid I had out and rigged it with a brand new 9/0 Jobu hook on a 300 lb. leader. I gave the boys a quick rundown on the procedures to get this contraption to the bottom in 1750 feet of water without turning it into a spider web. We dropped the rig with a 12lb. down rigger ball clipped to the windon leader as a sinker. We made contact with the bottom and started our drift. I think the rod tip looked a little awkward, but we let it ride to just try and nail down our drift. After 20 minutes we were closing on the wall and it was getting shallow (1200 feet) so we brought the rig up to find the hook had somehow hung up on one of the lights. Not a good start but at least I had figured out the drift.
I lined up on the spot and we dropped again. As we were dropping the sword rig Terry grabbed a spinner and tossed out a live pinfish to see if a mahi would play. As the pinfish was swimming off the stern and the sword rig was headed down, Terry pipes up about something and I look back to see a blue marlin swatting at the pinfish. At about the same time the sword bait hit the bottom and we reeled it up to keep from getting hung up. As the big electric reel was collecting line (about 10 ft. worth) the drag started slipping so we stopped the reel to see what was going on. All this was going on while Terry was still trying to get the marlin to eat his pinfish.
Once we got the electric stopped, the rod continued to bounce so we hit the go buttons and realized we were hooked up to something big 1750 feet down. Eventually Terry’s marlin tires of beating up his pinfish and departed so he put the spinner away and put on his gloves. As the electric collected line we worked out who would be doing what
Next came the sinker so Cliff stopped the reel, Terry jumped on the wheel and I grabbed the weight off the line. Just as I got the weight off, the sword was only about 100 feet away and he jumped clear out of the water. I glanced over at Cliff and his mouth was wide open (mine was too probably). She hit the water and made a beeline towards the lower units. Terry had just put the boat in gear to kick the stern away from the charging fish. As she was coming straight at the starboard quarter I was able to get the harpoon in to the sword before she could get into the engines. Terry and I grabbed a couple straight gaffs and heaved her onto the aft deck.
I looked at Cliff his mouth still wide open, he said “I had no idea it would happen that quick.” Well me neither, but that’s what we were fishing for so it must not have been an accident.
We broke out the cameras for a couple shots on the stern then got to work making her cold in the bag. By the time we had her in the bag it dawned on me how hot it was. There wasn’t a breath of wind. We all had a cold drink and asked if we wanted to try that again. Both Cliff and Terry looked at me like I was crazy, “Put this this thing in the wind and stir up a breeze” was the response.
We did find a couple mahi on the way in and I sent Capt. Marlin a text when I had service again that we had a nice sword.
After we stopped at American Shoal Lighthouse to take a couple more pictures we headed to the fillet table. Capt. Marlin met us at the dock to interview Cliff and Terry which made my day.
Cliff and Terry helped me get the fillets off the fish and hauled it to Terry shop to vacuum seal the excess steaks that weren’t headed to the dinner table that night.
Bucket list? Big deal? Yeah, I think so. Congratulations Cliff!
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